Friday, June 12, 2009

More sights of Gyeongju

I decided to collect the rest of my trip to Gyeongju into one last post. We went to so many places for such a short amount of time that it's really not worth making individual posts about each one.

After climbing Namsan for 5 hours, we went to Tumuli Park. Here is the resting place of 23 Silla kings. Traditional Korean tombs for royalty always look like small rounded hills. They did not bury their kings underground. The tomb was placed inside of a wooden box, which was then covered by a huge mound of stones, then a mound of clay, then quite a bit of dirt. In Tumuli Park, there was one tomb which had been excavated and opened to the public. Though the actual tomb was not visible, a replica of how it looked when they first excavated in available for viewing. There are also many replicas of the various artifacts found in the tomb.
Me, with tombs in the background

Replica of the king's burial chamber.

If you want to see the actual artifacts found in the excavated tombs, you can then make your way over to the Gyeongju National Museam. My guide book says admission is 1000 won, but my admission was free because for some reason the museum is free and open to the public for a while. First thing you see when you enter is the Emille Bell. On the English description of this bell, it just tells that it is an important bell and that it is one of the largest and most resonant bells made in Asia. Personally, it doesn't look all that huge, but the English description left out the most important thing about this bell, the reason why it is so well known. Legend has it that when this bell was first made, it was a very poor quality bell. Then, someone had a vision and realized how to make it better. They needed to put a child into the molten metal in order to make the bell more resonant. The child that they found was named Emille. Now, whenever the bell is rung, the sound makes the sound of the boy's name, Emille... emille... emille....

Emille Bell

Evidently they have tested the bell to see if the story is true, but no traces of a human could be found in the bell. It's a fun story anyway. And one I've never seen on any English description. It's quite nice having someone around to translate and explain these things...

There were quite a few galleries to see inside the museum, but the one we enjoyed the most was the Buddhist art gallery.

Inside the Buddhist Gallery

Anapji Pond at night

After leaving the museum, we made a quick stop by Anapji Pond. This is the location of a pleasure garden constructed in 674. The pond here was actually completely man made. All the buildings burned in 935, so all that remains are the foundation stones (kind of a common theme in this city) and the pond which was restored in 1975. But, it's beautiful to see at night. They really know how to work the lighting just right.


Sunday morning, we made a quick stop by Cheomseongdae. This is the oldest astrological observitory in Asia, so I guess it's worth seeing. Frankly, there's not much to do there, besides get the photo, so I wouldn't make this a priority on a trip if there are other things you want to see more than this. It's located in Wolseong Park, wich is another park with Kings tombs. Entrance to the park is free, but there's not much to see...


Quite a far distance away, we found ourselves at Gameunsa. This is the remains of another temple where two pagodas still stand.

Sea tomb behind me...

Lastly, we checked out the Sea Tomb of King Munmu. There's not much to see here from the shore, but you're not allowed to go out to the rocks where the tomb is. It's the world's only underwater tomb. The king wanted to be buried at see so that his spirit could become a dragon to protect the country. His ashes were spread here. No one knows if the rock in the center of the islets is actually the tomb or not and people speculate that it is just a legend.

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